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Sectional pressure Essay

(1)Sectional pressure groups are ones that aim to represent the common interests of a particular section of society and are mostly concerned with only that part of society; so as a result, membership is often closed and restricted. The also aim to get as many eligible members as possible to join the group.Sectional groups might include; TUC, the Confederation of British Industry, the Institute of Directors, British Medical Association, Federation of Small Businesses, National Farmers Union, the Law SocietyMembers of sectional pressure groups are directly and personally concerned with the outcome of the campaigns fought by the group because normally they stand to gain professionally and/or economically.Promotional pressure groups are also known as cause groups. This group follows a specific set of objectives- they aim to promote a cause, the achievement of which is not necessarily of direct professional or economic benefit to the members of the group. Examples of a promotional pressure group are- CND, whose cause is nuclear disarmament and The Society for the protection of the unborn child, whose cause is the prevention of abortions.There membership is not usually restricted because they aim to promote a cause that everybody is likely to support. These types of pressure groups get members joining them because they want to join and can be sub-divided according to the aims they pursue. A pressure group for both of these categories would be age concern.(2)There are many methods pressure groups employ to influence the political process.Most pressure groups are careful to maintain a non-partisan approach; some can only realistically expect to exert influence if a particular party is in power. For example, it is only since labour came into power in 1997 that the Electoral Reform Society had any realistic change of achieving its goals because the Conservatives were strongly opposed to electoral reform whilst in government.It is important to note that it is not always the pressure groups that approach parties. Some times if a party wants a particular policy to be supported, the party will approach the particular pressure group.One way in which pressure groups can challenge and sometimes overturn a government decision is to take action in the courts. Legal actions are costly and long; however, pressure groups have now been using this method even more. A few of the larger pressure groups now have a legal representative or department.The cost of taking legal action means that, in general, the courts are only used as a last resort when all other methods have been unsuccessful.There has also been a huge increase of paid political consultants who offer to act as intermediaries between pressure groups and parliament.Lobbyists are used mainly by sectional groups and commercial clients; however, some cause groups do make use of them. Lobbyists have three main functions. The first one is to provide groups with political information, secondly, to bring groups into contact with MPs or officials, or to bring MPs or officials into contact with groups and finally, to persuade MPs or officials to back a particular issue or cause.Pressure groups also need to get the publics support and this can be done using the media. The media plays a central role in modern politics and is used by all pressure groups. Television and newspapers are particularly important in determining which issues appear on the political agenda both nationally and locally.They can also help to create a climate of public opinion which puts pressure on decision makers. There are many ways in using the media. Firstly, the media can provide visibility, secondly, the media acts as a source of information for pressure groups. Pressure groups often scrutinise the media for relevant information and are able to build campaigns around issues that are in the news or which have local relevance. Thirdly, the media plays a part in changing political climate and this can have a direct effect on pressure group popularity, e.g. The Abortion Reform Association was set up in 1936 but its views were ignored until a new liberal outlook emerged in 1960’s. Pressure groups may also need to react to a news item and, media coverage can demonstrate that a matter is of public concern. Finally, information provided by pressure groups may directly influence the content or articles or programmes. All this being a way of campaigning outside the government system.Three campaigning techniques that pressure groups can use are- paying for adverts in newspapers, direct mail and publicity stunts. Paying for adverts in newspapers can attract support for the cause and bring in donations and new members. As it is an expensive method, only groups with a large amount of members can afford this. Some groups produce mail shots which are posted direct to members of the public. This method allows the pressure group to reach a large number of people in a short amount of time. Others are designed to inform people about developments or ask them to take action. An example of this would be Greenpeace, who have managed persuade almost half a million people to write letters protesting about whaling.On the other hand, some groups are not viewed in a sympathetic light by the media and therefore cannot expect to receive good publicity as a matter of course. Sometimes different issues are given higher priorities, and therefore other groups may find that there press releases are ignored. As a result, some pressure groups may organise events, to gain publicity. These events may vary, from things like, marches or demonstrations or they might be other forms of direct action. In some circumstances, certain pressure groups may end up using violence as a means of publicising their cause.Pressure groups could also use direct action. Direct action is a form of political action which operates outside the formal political process. It can be characterized as a range of activities which have a number of essential qualities. They can be highly organised and effective, they are demonstrative, obstructive, publicity seeking, increasingly illegal and at times violent.Campaigns of direct action are highly organised. Even though local campaigns of direct action might not be successful, they can still influence government policy.(3)Some pressure groups are more successful than others. There are many reasons behind this.It is not simple to measure the success of a pressure group. Although there are some cause groups which have a single objective, most pressure groups have multiple objectives and it is difficult to know which has priority. However, it is important to note that there are many other factors other than the achievement of an objective that may affect whether or not a pressure group is successful or not.First, it is important to take into consideration whether decision makers are responsive to a pressure group’s message.If a pressure groups message fits with the decision maker’s ideology, it is much more likely to be accepted and the group is therefore, much more likely to accepted and the group is therefore likely to be affective.Secondly, the fact that much of the discussion about a decision often takes place in private is also significant. This is because, later, it might not be clear from records whether a pressure group’s actions have been influential.Sometimes it is difficult to know which pressure group has influenced the decision makers. This is because sometimes, several pressure groups campaign for the same outcome which means it can be unclear which particular group influenced the decision makers.If decision makers do not appear to be receptive, this does not mean that they have taken no notice of the pressure group’s campaign. Pressure groups demands may be taken on board quietly to avoid a loss of faceGrant, 1995, argues that there are three main categories which affect pressure groups effectiveness. These three categories being, 1) Domain organisation 2) Resources and 3) The external environment.The characteristics of the membership of a pressure group to some extent determine the effectiveness of the pressure group. A group who has members that come from a disadvantage section of the population is less likely to be effective than a group whose membership comes from the middle classes. An example would be- the WWF with its mass membership of middle-class activists are likely to be effective than the Claimants Union, the bulk of whose membership is unemployed.The attractiveness of a group in terms of its electoral influence may also play a part in determining effectiveness. It is easier to arouse public concern and, therefore, the support decision makers for the elderly than for, say, for the low paid. Also, competition for members can lead to groups becoming less competitive. Rather than presenting a united front, groups representing the same interests may be fragmented by their differing ideologies and stragerigies. If this is the case, then decision makers are likely to adopt a ‘divide and rule’ policy which reduces the chance of any of the pressure groups fulfilling their objectives.This is a tactic often used by the government when dealing with unions. An example would be the teaching profession. This is represented by six different unions and is highly unusual for all six to take the same line on government policy. This makes it easier fro the government to ignore views it does not support.The second category, resources, states how the finance, number of staff and the organisational structure of a pressure group have an effect on its success.Financial resources not only affect what campaigning techniques a group can use, they also determine how many members of staff a group can employ.Employees have the time and expertise to ensure that campaigns are organised in a professional, effective manner.Financial uncertainty can also affect a group’s effectiveness. Most groups rely on membership subscriptions and donations. But these sources of funds can dry up easily. Between 1989 and 1992, for example, WWF’s income fell by more than �3 million because it lost a tenth of its supporters. This drop in the number of supporters was due both to the depth of the economic recession and the fact that the environment had slipped down the political agenda.A group’s organisational structure also has a hearing on its effectiveness. Sectional groups tend to have a centralised structure including a council which is the ultimate policy-making body and smaller specialised groups which look after individual areas or campaigns. Cause groups on the other hand tend to have a more decentralised structure. The advantage here is that members feel that they are intimately involved in the group’s decision making process.Every pressure group has finite resources, but the way in which a group chooses to use these resources will help to determine that group’s effectiveness, a bad choice of tactics can mean a long-term setback.Public opinion can also be an important factor in determining a group’s effectiveness. Attitudes tend to change slowly, but a series of events or a crisis may lead to the expression of new views.Often these new views are first expressed in the media. Decision makers tend to be concerned with what the media sees as important and to give priority to these issues. That is one reason why pressure groups cultivate contacts with the media.The importance of public opinion can be seen in the way in which the environmental movement grew in the 1980’s.Much media coverage was given to environmental problems such as the reduction of the ozone layer, global warming and acid rain. Public concern about environmental issues led not only to an increase in support for environmental groups, it also led to greater emphasis being placed on the environment by decision bakers. Members rose form 74,360 in 1988 to 231,211 in 1991

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